RIP Keith Broomfield, Killed in a Firefight with ISIS

After five days, we were still stuck in Suruc, and I was out of time. I had to head back to Gaziantep, then Istanbul, then back to Jerusalem. The weather had brightened up. The sun was shining but it was still cold when we shook hands, said farewell, and wished each other luck.

War is full of these brief, intense friendships. Like a strong current, it throws people together, and allows for rapid recognition. Then it pulls them apart again, equally rapidly.

I was in Baghdad when I heard about his death. In the middle of an intense reporting trip. Killed in a battle outside Kobani, the wires said. I didn’t have time to think about it and put the news to the back of my mind, until I got home to Jerusalem. Where I’m writing this.

We are living through history in the Middle East right now. Great events afoot, borders shifting, movements rising and falling.

Some, or many of the forces that have arisen in the ferment are malignant, savage, as close to pure evil as the human condition can produce. The Islamic State is one of those. I remember the Yezidi refugees in the Newroz camp in northern Syria. In the parched summer of 2014. Their stories of the marauding jihadis, slaughtering all before them. The haunted eyes of the children.

Keith Broomfield travelled all the way from Massachussets to Kobani, with one intention alone. To put a stop to that. By force, if necessary. At the cost of his own life, if necessary.

Islamic State are retreating across northern Syria now. The Kurds have taken Tel Abyad. The jihadis’ claw-hold on the border is broken. The Kurdish media is showing the fighters, beneath the summer sun, moving forward, all the time forward. Good work. But Broomfield from Westminster, Massachusetts, my friend, isn’t here to see it. The last, full measure of devotion. How very high the cost.